In January of 2010, federal appellate Judge Terence Evans retired from his Seventh Circuit seat. That was 2,000 days ago — nearly five years — and the vacancy has yet to be filled, making it the oldest federal court vacancy in the nation.
In the Huffington Post on Tuesday, Nan Aron, the president of the progressive Alliance for Justice, lays the blame squarely on one person: U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.
In the five years since Evans’ retirement, Aron writes, “President Obama has successfully filled about 300 other judicial vacancies around the country, and the Seventh Circuit, working shorthanded and grappling with profoundly important issues like voting rights, the death penalty, marriage equality, and the Second Amendment, has had to decide more than 7,000 cases.”
The vacant seat has been a bone of contention between Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, and his fellow Wisconsin senator, Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat. It’s Johnson’s and Baldwin’s job to send nominations for the seat to the president. But Aron says Johnson has obstructed the process at every turn. - The Cap Times, 6/10/15
Here's the backstory:
Back in 2010, President Obama nominated a law professor from the University of Wisconsin named Victoria Nourse to replace Judge Evans. Nourse had been recommended by Wisconsin's then-Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold. But just days after taking office, Johnson announced his intention to block both Nourse and Western District of Wisconsin nominee Louis Butler, because Johnson had not been consulted on their nominations (he was not consulted, of course, because he had not yet been elected).
The president eventually withdrew Nourse, but Johnson wasn't satisfied. He wanted equal say in selecting judicial nominees, so he dismantled Wisconsin's decades-old commission process that gave greater influence to the senator of the president's party. (That earlier process was also in accord with common practice nationwide.) For the sake of collegiality, Baldwin agreed to go along. They established a new six-member commission and each appointed three members.
But with a new process came a new excuse for delay. The commission couldn't work on the Seventh Circuit vacancy, Johnson said, until the president made nominations to two other Wisconsin vacancies. That maneuver led to another year of waiting, and the commission did not solicit Seventh Circuit applications until July 2014--more than four years after the vacancy arose.
The commission finally interviewed eight finalists for the Seventh Circuit last November, but that's all it could accomplish. Charged with recommending at least four candidates, the commission deadlocked. Baldwin wrote to all members of the commission, encouraging them to find consensus. She asked Johnson to co-sign the letter, but he refused. In January, the commission notified both senators that it could not fulfill its charge, and by May--a full eight months after the process began and nearly six months after commission interviews--the process had stalled out entirely. So, after consulting with each of the candidates, Sen. Baldwin sent all eight names to the White House, at once preserving the commission's successfully completed work and ensuring that the president had a sufficient number of qualified Wisconsinites to choose from.
Yet again, Johnson refused to join Baldwin, and attacked her efforts to finally fill this vacancy as "partisan." That is not to say, though, that his position has been consistent. At one point he said that all eight candidates were now "tainted" and that the process must start over. More recently, he said that he is "willing to consider and continue to fully vet . . . two applicants who" the commission agreed on, but not anyone else.
It's not hard to see through Johnson's latest offer. It will only put the process back into an indefinite holding pattern while the White House waits for Johnson to "continue vetting" two candidates that he may but is not guaranteed to eventually endorse. It is one thing to bypass a broken commission process so that the vacancy can be filled; it is quite another to change the rules on the fly to ensure it remains empty. -Huffington Post, 6/9/15
I know you all are just as excited about Russ Feingold's (D. WI) rematch. Lets help him get ready to take out this Tea Party clown by donating and getting involved with his campaign: